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Text: Formal vs Friendliness

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I seem to often be torn between these two styles of "writing" when adding text details to items and interface commands. Does anyone else experience this conflict? Formal text is strict and to the point. It's sometimes easier to grab the essence of the message, because of the lack of personality in it. It describes exact points and details without any charm or humor. It can also be a bore to read. Here's an example from a scanner device description in my project:
Quote:
A beam is cast straight forward from the device, which scans vertically from ceiling to floor, creating a thin wall of motion detection. Any objects that pass through the wall are detected.
Friendly text is less specific, and contains more personality. It doesn't always explain specific details. It usually contains slang, exaggerations, sarcasm, and/or humor. Here's an example of that from a trench coat item in my own project:
Quote:
In addition to looking like a cool noir detective, you can conceal several weapons in this thing, as well as hide armor from your enemies.
The main elements that make this sentence less formal are "this thing" and the "cool noir detective" bit. Which type of text do you generally prefer to use in your project for the descriptions of items, game options, skills, etc? Do you use different styles for different situations? And which type of text do you usually prefer to read in other games? And would that depend on the situation as well? edit: typo [Edited by - Kest on September 30, 2007 8:36:59 AM]

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I'd say think about the effect it will have on the player. A formal style will make the player feel alone while he's playing it. A friendly style will make him feel like he's got you along with him if you know what i mean. Switching between styles generally will make the experience confused.

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For me personally, there's definitely something positive about a lack of seriousness in some elements of the game. But I'm not entirely convinced that mixing it up is a bad idea. Does it not feel overdone when everything is approached the same way?

The friendly style also has the potential to contradict a certain mood that might be set in the game. For example, during a very sad event or desperate fight for survial, my trench coat description might feel really out of place.

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i think for more advanced players, who just want to get better, only the information value is important. for a beginner or user friendly way of introducing the game to a new audience a less serious way is nicer to read. i would say it depends on the consumer and the entrylevel skill you expect! dynamic tooltips would be an option too.

mfg
flery

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Include both wherever there is room. For instance, on an item's description page you could make the first line(s) read very formally as if it were an instruction manual on what it does, then include an informal paragraph as if it were a magazine reviewing the item. Provided you do both for each item, the player can read just the part he feels most comfortable with.

Even in very formal written texts, such as mathematics, a combination of formal and informal language is used. The formal language is essential so that there is no ambiguity, and the informal description helps paint a picture to understand it better. Without either the text becomes unreadable. For example, in Hilbert's Grundzuge der Theoretischen Logik, chapters I, II and III lay out the principles of sentential, monadic and predicate calculus respectively; in each he first describes the system informally before giving a formal axiomatic basis. The reason for this is a fundamental problem of the philosophy of language; it is impossible to make any absolute definitions because we can only define words and objects in terms of other words and objects. Thus even formal texts will begin with an informal introduction to the most fundamental definitions, then build the formal theory around them. The moral of the story is, if you want the player to understand what something is or does, you'll always need a combination of formal and informal language.

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It depends on two things: a) the seriousness of the game; b) the usefulness/seriousness of the object. Balance it between the seriousness of the game (if it's Splinter Cell go for formal, if it's GTA go with informal) and the usefulness of the object. Say the object is your backpack or something equally often used, you would probably go with informal. Conversely, if the object is the Great Mega-Vortex Hammer of Doom (with a less goofy name) of which there is only one in the entire universe, treat it with some solemnity.

If it's a puzzle game and this 'scanner device' will get you past the tricky section on level four (or you're just going for some discretion about its uses), give them only formal description of what it does, not what you can use it for.

Formal = Specifically what it does - instruction manual that assumes prior knowledge.
Informal = What I, as the player, can do with it - how is it helpful to me?

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Match the personality of your game. Creating a consistent atmosphere is a big part of the game experience, IMO.

For a great example of an informal-style game, see Fallout and Fallout 2.

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Yep, Fallout is my main inspiration for friendly style text. The game was serious, but it had that typical sci-fi humor aspect. It would have been a very different game without it.

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